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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Plant City Courier

FDLE ends probe into Plant City commissioner

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Published:   |   Updated: June 11, 2014 at 09:28 PM

— State law enforcement officials have completed their investigation into allegations that City Commissioner Billy Keel interfered with a city investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the former police chief.

The next move is up to the state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties.

The case involving Keel has taken a few twists since February, when Plant City commissioners — at Keel’s request — asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to step in.

The FDLE weeks ago completed its probe into the allegations that Keel tried to dissuade a witness from cooperating with city officials looking into misconduct by then- Police Chief Steve Singletary.

FDLE spokeswoman Samantha Andrews said Wednesday that her agency forwarded its findings to Mark Ober, state attorney for Hillsborough County. Ober declared a potential conflict of interest because he is dating Yvonne Fry, a politically connected Plant City consultant.

That’s when Gov. Rick Scott appointed Clearwater-based State Attorney Bernie McCabe to take over.

It’s not clear when prosecutors might make a decision; an office spokeswoman said Wednesday the case remained open.

Keel asked his colleagues to seek the investigation because he maintained he had done nothing wrong and wanted to clear the air. On Wednesday he declined to comment.

Andrews said she could not discuss what the state investigation uncovered.

“We are the fact finders. We go out and get the information and turn it over to the state attorney’s office,” she said.

FDLE forwards its files to prosecutors regardless of the merits of the allegations, Andrews said.

Melissa Hardwick, who was having an affair with Singletary, has sworn under oath that Keel tried through a mutual friend to persuade her to remain silent if questioned by city investigators about the relationship. Hardwick decided to cooperate, and Singletary was fired in January after then-City Manager Greg Horwedel concluded the chief had sex with Hardwick on city time and on city property.

Horwedel now is deputy Hillsborough County administrator.

City commissioners in February also asked for the state Commission on Ethics to look into the allegations against Keel. A spokeswoman said Wednesday that she couldn’t confirm or deny any probe her agency was conducting until there was a staff recommendation for action.

 

dnicholson@tampatrib.com

(813) 394-5103

Twitter: @dnicholsonTBO

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